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3 Stars of the Week: Corey Kluber returns to dominant form

Corey Kluber, Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco headlined the pack of notable performances in a week where the Indians won five consecutive games. The IBI's Gage Will brings you his third installment of 3 Stars of the Week..

3 Stars of Week 3

Week 3 included many remarkable individual performances, but none were more impressive than Corey Kluber’s Friday night dismantling of White Sox hitters.

Losing a Sunday afternoon game is bad. Losing a Sunday afternoon game to Derek Holland is the worst, especially with a day off following it. The Indians will have to wait until Tuesday night when the Houston Astros come to town to get that bad taste out of their mouth. The game was far from entertaining for Tribe fans, with no timely hitting and fielding blunders galore. However, we should not let Sunday’s game distract us from what was a great week.

Week 3 (3 games at Minnesota Twins, 3 games at Chicago White Sox)

Indians record: 3-0 @ MIN, 2-1 @ CHW

It’s a shame that Minneapolis weather intervened and rained out the Wednesday night game (the game will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on June 17). The Indians were rolling in the Twin Cities, which is nice to say, as it seems they have had their fair share of problems up north the past couple years. Danny Salazar threw a gem on Monday, the bats feasted on 88-mph meatballs from Phil Hughes on Tuesday and Trevor Bauer chipped in with his first quality start of the season on Thursday. A well-rounded intra-division sweep on the road had the Tribe feeling good.

On to Chicago… Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco looked impeccable. Holding a team to six hits over 18 innings is no small feat. As for Sunday, it is quite hard to calibrate Derek Holland’s success against the Indians.

Holland is crafty and painted the black on the inside corners to righties all afternoon, but there were plenty of missed chances. From a fan’s standpoint, I found myself thinking the Indians hitters were guessing wrong all afternoon. This is mostly a credit to Holland, but there were certainly many hittable pitches that went unpunished.

In a week that the Indians outscored their opponents 32-13, there was certainly no shortage of offense or pitching. Strong fielding all week, especially in Saturday’s victory, was capped off by a dud on Sunday. These games happen when you play 162 of them, so there is no reason to fret about the Tribe defensively.

Three Stars – Corey Kluber

Kluber was impressive, to say the least. The White Sox never got anything going, or even threatened runs. He only faced 29 hitters, allowing five of them to reach. He achieved the shutout in a crisp 110 pitches. Only Ervin Santana has logged a better performance this season, according to ESPN’s game scores.

ESPN

On Friday night, Kluber struck everyone out, almost literally. The only White Sox batter that did not make that embarrassing walk back to the dugout was Tim Anderson. His two-seam fastball was darting, his curveball was sharp and he did not miss his spots. When Klubot activates that mode, the ‘27 Yankees would be in trouble.

It was the first time we got to see the real Corey Kluber in 2017. His next start will be at home against a potent Astros lineup on Thursday. 

Two Stars – Michael Brantley

This past week, Dr. Smooth convinced me. He’s back. Sure, that injury will always be in our minds, but he looked like the old version of himself. In 24 plate appearances, he struck out three times and walked three times. He finished the week 8-for-21, which registers as a .381 batting average. Of the 18 balls he put in play, the average hit probability was 52.4%. Theoretically, an argument could be made that he was a bit unlucky as a result.

The main reason for his ascension to two star status, however, was his overall impact on the games. His three extra-base hits, two homers and a double, played a role in catapulting him to the top of the average win probability added list for the week (among position players). As you can see below, he was the most impactful everyday player.

Big hits, solid at-bats and a smooth swing. On top of a 5-1 road trip in the division, this was the most encouraging sign from Week 3.

One Star – Carlos Carrasco

Throw eight innings of three-hit ball without allowing a run and you expect to be at the top of one of these lists, not third. His spot here is no slight, merely a testament to the performance of Kluber and a bit of nostalgia about Brantley’s return to form. Regardless, Carrasco was dominant.

His Saturday night outing was the eighth best starting pitching game score of the year. It featured eight strikeouts and only one walk. The most impressive number Cookie posted was the 15.1% whiff rate. It was the second time in four starts he has cracked the 15% line, which is big news as he only exceeded that mark four times in 2016. In his peak year of 2015, he did it nine times. Whiff rate will be a good indicator to watch for Carrasco this year.

Fangraphs

Through three weeks, Carlos has undoubtedly been the most consistent starter. He has not allowed more than two runs in any of his four starts, and more importantly, the Indians have only lost once with him on the hill.

Cumulative Leaderboard

Francisco Lindor 5 stars
Jose Ramirez 3 stars
Corey Kluber 3 stars
Carlos Santana 2 stars
Michael Brantley 2 stars
Cody Allen 1 star
Lonnie Chisenhall 1 star
Carlos Carrasco 1 star

Week 4 will feature home showdowns with two American League West opponents, the Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners. Josh Tomlin will be starting twice, and will need to build from a much improved start against the Twins. My eyes will be on Jason Kipnis to see how he adjusts to major league pitching.


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